The ‘e’ stands for electronic – electronic sports. It’s the medium of playing video games competitively. You may think that you’ve done this yourself since you were a child – playing against your cousin on FIFA on the PlayStation - but this is different. The E-sports phenomenon is big business these days. Whole competitions are shown on television and even in arenas.
The proliferation of online communication, and the internet in general, has no doubt contributed to the increasing popularity of E-sports. Before the early to mid-2000s they did exist, but they were rather amateurish in their organisation and in their competitor numbers. Not so today, however.
There are a multitude of E-sports competitions these days, with competitors from all over the world. One look at the E-sports schedule for the year shows just how popular it is, and the prize money often goes into the hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars.
In August 2017, the E-sports competition ‘the International’, featuring the multiplayer game Dota 2, featured a whopping $24million in prize money! Television did not prove to be the best medium for viewing E-sports, and so today’s huge audiences have been made possible by the arrival of online streaming services.
As with most sports tournaments, E-sports tournaments start off with a large number of players, and these are then whittled down to a final few. Most tournaments are played in teams, and are often specific to a country or a region, with the finals frequently being contested by the winners from the regional or national heats to determine the winner. Some tournaments, much rarer, feature one on one players.
One popular E-sports tournament is the Gfinity Elite Series. This is a tournament where eight of the best E-sports pro teams from around the world compete against each other to be crowned series champion. Some of the games the teams play include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), Street Fighter V, and Rocket League, and will for 2018 also include the FIFA video game.
The Gfinity Elite Series is testament to the fact that people not only like to play E-Sports, but also watch it in huge numbers. This tournament is held in a big London arena, and is so popular that it has even been shown on BBC TV in the UK.
There are so many types of game you can play in E-sports, with sports games like FIFA, Role Playing Games (RPGS) and many others. However, there are two types of game which are the most popular. These are first-person shooters, such as CS:GO, and MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) games such as Dota 2.
With the stratospheric rise of E-sports, where do they go from here? Well, there appears to be no doubt at all that they will go from strength to strength in the future. Brands have realised the advertising and marketing potential and are getting involved in a big way. This is not to say that the rise of E-sports isn’t without its challenges.
Betting on E-sports has become big business, with a lot of the traditional sportsbooks getting in on the action. Gaming aficionados are the ones most likely to make winnings on E-sports competitions, but it’s open to anyone who’d like to try. However, some concerns have been raised that bets are sometimes placed using virtual currency.
Also, some argue that the relative youth of a lot of the competitors and spectators could encourage underage gambling. These are legitimate concerns, especially as the popularity of both E-sports and virtual currency is predicted to keep on increasing. It is something that games companies need to address, therefore, if they are to keep the support of many people, especially parents. There is some evidence that games companies are taking the threat seriously and are erecting some “barriers” to deter young people from using virtual currencies, but it is something that they need to keep up.
There is some debate about whether E-sports are really sports. OK, you don’t exert any sweat, but it’s certainly a game of mental toughness, and there’s no doubting the competitive element. The fact that it is so popular as a spectator event makes it clear that E-sports aren’t going anywhere any time soon. They’re here to stay, so we should all get used to it!